Idaho districts and charters carry over $519 million in savings

Idaho districts and charters amassed a record $519 million in savings last school year, according to an Idaho Education News review of 2022 audits. 

The money is labeled on audits to reside in “fund balances,” meaning the money was not spent in 2021-22 and carried over to this school year’s budget.

Almost all districts and charters — 177 of 183 — had some unspent money at the end of their 2022 budget year. 

The latest tally reflects a growing trend. Fund balances have increased by an average of 17% over the past three years: up $124 million since 2019. 

Find Idaho’s three-year comparative analyses on this page.
  • 2019-2020 fund balance: $395 million
  • 2020-2021 fund balance: $444 million
  • 2021-2022 fund balance: $519 million

Idaho’s largest districts carry over the most money in fund balances — but even so, it’s usually a small percentage of their annual budget:

  • Boise’s $44.2 million fund balance is 17% of its overall budget
  • West Ada’s $31 million is 12%
  • Nampa’s $18.6 million is 18%
  • Pocatello’s $17.8 million is 21%
  • Idaho Falls’ $15.2 million is 22%

Very small districts and charters have the most fluctuating savings because their budgets are sensitive to changes in enrollment and revenue. They also are more likely to save more money than they spend in a school year. The savings in these districts and charters exceeded their annual budgets by more than 100%: 

  • Kootenai Bridge Academy $7,291,322 (211%)
  • Gem Prep: Online $4,743,673 (165%)
  • Doral Academy of Idaho $1,570,410 (132%)
  • Prairie Elementary District $225,670 (129%)
  • Island Park Charter School $178,116 (120%)
  • Liberty Charter School $4,019,634 (115%)
  • Wendell School District $7,817,556 (105%)
  • McKenna Charter School $5,109,381 (103%)
  • Avery School District $527,397 (101%)
Click here to find the fund balance at your district or charter. 

Twenty-one of the 30 districts and charters that exceed their annual operating budgets by at least 50% were charter schools. 

Use this link to take a look at the state’s other top savers.

Gem Prep CEO Jason Bransford said charter schools may feel the need to save more and spend less because they rely almost exclusively on state funding.  

“Because they do not have supplemental levies or bonds to ease the impact of potential dips in enrollment, charters may want to have a larger balance sheet to weather any storms, especially dips in enrollment or a reduction in revenue from the state,” Bransford said.

Bransford also explained charters save money in preparation for growth and to purchase or borrow money for facilities. 

“Typically, those dollars are raised in advance … which may sit in the coffers of the school for several years before they are used to fund expansion,” he said. “Each school is different, and there may be other explanations that I have not considered.”

Idaho law allows districts and charters to set aside annual contingency funds reflecting up to 5% of annual budgets. Unused contingency dollars are counted as an item of income in the following year’s budget.

Mountain View School District,  Idaho Virtual Academy and Southeastern Idaho Technical Charter School reported no fund balances in last year’s audit.

Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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